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John Adams’ powerful new opera, Girls of the Golden West, is a rejection of the whitewashed romantic view of California in the early days of the Gold Rush. Director Peter Sellars drew from historical texts when he created the libretto, particularly from the memoirs of a woman who called herself Dame Shirley. As Sellars has said, “These true stories of the Forty-Niners are overwhelming in their heroism, passion, and cruelty, telling tales of racial conflicts, colorful and humorous exploits, political strife and struggles to build new life.” Responding to these incidents, Adams’ propulsive music captures all the conflicting emotions with his characteristic insight.